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Question DetailsAsked on 12/11/2017

When the weather changes to fall, my kitchen cabinets that go to ceiling separate, when spring comes go back normal

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1 Answer


Here are links to a couple of previous questions on this rather unique and irritating issue:

This can occur due to attic roof truss shortening in the dry season - which might be summer in damper winter, hot dry summers like much of the Pacific Southwest and the western Great Plains away from the major rivers and lake country for instance, but in areas with damper summers and cold, dry winter air occurs in the winter time - which sounds like your case. of course, with air conditioned attics (if that is your case) this season can be reversed by the air conditioning. Has a LOT more to do with moisture content in the wood than temperature, and pretty much always at ceilings/floors between unconditioned and heated/air conditioned spaces.

Can also happen (to a lesser extent usually) due to moisture changes in wood props/piers under a house with a grid of piers rather than continuous-span flooring from foundation to foundation (so mostly in areas with crawlspaces under the house and little or no frost penetration), and in some areas (mostly western great plains from Canada to Texas plus scattered locations in the West) due to seasonal soil expansion/contraction under piers supporting the floors.

The effect is almost always most pronounced along interior walls rather than exterior because the exterior walls are (hopefully) sitting on foundations which do not move, and at the exterior walls the trusses are generally a lot shorter in height so there is less movement - though modern design houses with celestory lighting along the outside for instance, where the outside of the roof is higher (at least on one side) than the other can have pronounced issues at the outside walls. Also, with ceiling trusses (most common culprits) most common at the non-load bearing interior walls - commonly interior walls between back-to-back bathrooms, and long central hall walls.

As the previous responses indicate, in minor cases an elastic paintable caulk may stick to both the top of the cabinet facing and to the ceiling at the crack to fill it without separating., if the crack is not more than say about 1/8". If that does not work, or for larger movement, sometimes a couple of yhears oif caulking may work. Alternatively, fastening a trim piece (like crown molding) across the front top face of the cabinets is the solution - but it has to be fastened ONLY to the ceiling, not the cabinets - so as the ceiling or floor moves up and down the gap remains fully covered by the trim.

A rectangular or quarter-round molding can usually be fastened to the ceiling with a regular nailgun shooting serrated finish nails through the trim into the drywall (assuming likeweight trim). Otherwise, for a flat molding the easiest way, and least ceiling drywall damage if the cabinets are replaced, is to punch finish nails through the drywall ceiling along the midline of the trim piece (which has to be thick enough to handle fastening into the edge) to mark the location, then go into the attic and felt tip mark the holes and push the nails back through into the kitchen. Then with someone underneath to hold the trim up in place the person above pilot holes the trim (to avoid splitting) and then drives the screws in. You need VERY small diameter screws - like #4 x 3/8-1/2" longer than the drywall thickness (which is commonly 1/2" on kitchen ceilings - so 7/8-1" screws most commonly) - to avoid splitting the trim. You can also do it with a nailgun if you are brave and drive the nails absolutely vertically where the finish nail marking holes are.

Good idea to caulk the holes in the vapor barrier which the fasteners make. Of course, doing it the above way means getting into the attic - avoiding crashing through the ceiling drywall, maybe removing a bunch of insulation and having to put it back, etc.

So some people cheat and use a THIN bead of caulk or construction adhesive (clear caulk or white if ceiling is white probably better in case some squeezes out) biased toward the cabinet side (to minimize squeeze-out risk) and just shove the trim strip up into place tight to the ceiling, then masking tape it in place till the adhesive dries for a day or so. But doing that risks the adhesive squeezing out and smearing the ceiling at the trim, and if you remove the trim in the future the drywall finish where the adhesive was is basically toast - the drywall paper will be damages, making repair very difficult.

Another way I have done it where the attic access is poor (like flat roof with no attic to speak of) is to drill small holes about 1/2" deep in the top center of the trim and glue in finish "annular ring" or "ribbed" deheaded nails or finish nails 1" long every 4-6 inches along the length of it, then holding the trim flat and tight to the cabinet face (and of course correctly aligned laterally along the cabinet face), just shove and tap the trim up into place, thereby driving the nails into the ceiling. Not going to hold much weight, but then the trim usually weighs very little.

Fastening the crown trim to the ceiling this way makes it move up and down with the ceiling, so it always conceals the gap above the cabinets.

Another way I have seen it handled - decorative roping or narrow fabric valence to conceal the gap.

Answered 2 years ago by LCD

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